Opinion: Indy endorses primary candidates 

Voters in El Paso and Teller counties have the opportunity next month to help determine the way we prosecute criminal justice, as well as shift the legislative agenda at the U.S. Capitol.

Electors will be asked on June 30 which of two Democrats should square off against U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and who, of two Republicans, they prefer to fill the seat of term-limited 4th District Attorney Dan May. In each race, we see a natural choice. (See videos below.)

We’re marking our ballots for Andrew Romanoff for U.S. Senate and Michael Allen for DA.

  • Courtesy Andrew Romanoff

U.S. Senate

When it comes to the Andrew Romanoff/John Hickenlooper primary, no matter how the vote goes, either will be far superior to the current seat-warmer and Trump apologist, Gardner. Both are likable, articulate and have demonstrated abilities to reach across the aisle and play well with others — something that inarguably is sorely lacking in Washington, D.C.

But since we have to choose, Romanoff is the right person to take on Gardner on Nov. 3. An experienced legislator, Romanoff served in the State House from 2000 to 2008, acting as its speaker for the final three years of his term. He has served as president and chief executive of the advocacy and policymaking nonprofit Mental Health Colorado, and in 2012 he founded the Posner Center for International Development.

Romanoff has the legislative chops to fight for the best interests of Coloradans (and everyone else in America) and do it with grace. He told us why he is running: “I don’t want anyone to struggle or suffer or die from an issue that we could fix.”

It’s hard to argue with that.

But let’s take a deeper dive. Here are some other reasons the speaker earned our nod:
No single issue better illustrates the differing stances of the candidates than fracking. Romanoff strongly and consistently opposes fracking, understanding the environmental damage it has done across much of the nation. Hickenlooper, meanwhile, dances around the question and won’t commit to a stance.

Similarly, Romanoff has distinguished himself as a true progressive, pressing for such forward-thinking priorities as single-payer health care, the Green New Deal and eliminating fossil-fuel industry subsidies.

And while both candidates are charismatic and likable, we question Hickenlooper’s commitment to the Senate seat. The 68-year-old former governor has vast experience as a CEO, but according to Politico, while on a February 2019 presidential campaign stop, he told a group of would-be voters: “I’m not cut out to be a senator. … Senators don’t build teams. Senators sit and debate in small groups, which is important, right? But I’m not sure that’s my — I’m a doer. That’s what gives me joy.” Romanoff, on the other hand, does not quibble about the fact that he’s committed to the job, and we can envision him rising to a position of great leadership at the federal level just as he did at the state.

Finally, Hickenlooper faces an ethics hearing in June regarding a failure to disclose travel gifts to include flights on private jets. Romanoff’s reputation, to the best of our knowledge, does not include any ethical gray areas.

Vote: Romanoff for Senate.

  • Courtesy Michael Allen

4th District DA

The campaign for the District Attorney’s office is a one-and-done this year, since the Democrats didn’t put forth a candidate. So whichever Republican — County Commissioner Mark Waller or Deputy DA Michael Allen — wins the June primary will take the seat, currently held by term-limited DA Dan May.

While we don’t agree 100 percent with either, we are throwing our vote to Allen. He’s a longtime prosecutor with years of experience in the DA’s office. And Allen has come up through the ranks of the office, meaning when he takes this critical seat — should he win — he will not face as steep of a learning curve.

Waller, meanwhile, has spent much of his career outside of the courtroom and in the board room. While he touts his experience as an in-field prosecutor of Iraqi insurgents, we note that most of his experience — and all of his recent life — has been spent in politics. Waller was a state representative from 2009 to 2015 and has held a lucrative seat on the Board of El Paso County Commissioners since July 19, 2016.

That’s not necessarily a sin, but when you consider that the seat is responsible for two counties’ judicial policy, it’s easy to see why the litigator wins out over the legislator. Here are a few more reasons:

Allen impressed us with his thoughts about the De'Von Bailey and Robert Dear cases, suggesting creating policies to avoid “us versus them” situations between law enforcement and the public, and how to deal effectively with “media who are starved for information.” Waller, meanwhile, simply said he “wouldn’t have handled [the Bailey controversy] any differently.”

We don’t see the DA as an inherently political position, and though Allen clearly is a card-carrying Republican, he doesn’t view the DA as a political figure. Waller, on the other hand, has been far more of a party-conscious conservative, which might have served him well as a county commissioner and state lawmaker, but not as DA.

Allen is well versed on issues that are critical to the district, such as its unmitigated growth, natural resources and the state’s controversial Red Flag law. While we disagree with his opposition to the law, Allen’s positions are well researched. He argues Red Flag laws are a violation of constitutional rights, particularly due process rights, and claims to support strengthening mental health laws — for example, with early use of care and treatment hearings. By contrast, in his answers Waller cherry-picked anecdotes, admitted to not having kept up with statistics, and even argued gun violence is “a misnomer.”

Waller is running for a position as the district’s top legal authority, and also finds himself treading choppy ethical waters. As reported in the May 13 Indy, Waller’s residency is under investigation by the 10th Judicial District prosecutor’s office in Pueblo. In question is whether he truly lives at his Colorado Springs home on the western edge of his County Commission district, or a $715,000 home in Palmer Lake that he bought last fall with a Veterans Affairs-backed loan, which has an occupancy requirement he has not met. Waller justifies it by saying his partner lives in the Palmer Lake house, and that she is co-owner of an LLC that owns the home. This is squishy ethical territory for a lawyer and just bad optics, given the seat he hopes to fill for up to 12 years.

Vote: Allen for DA

In both elections, the ethical choice is our choice.

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